Cat’s "Sixth Sense" Predicting Death?
In July 2007, a fascinating story appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine about a cat (in English) that could ”predict “ the deaths of patients in a nursing homeseveral hours before they died. Oscar, a cat adopted by the staff of the House Healthand Rehabilitation Steere in Providence, RI, has at least 25 successful predictions, in which patients died hours after the cat sitting next to their beds.
After the team’s home health care have realized the ability to Oscar, theybegan alerting families when the cat took up his post next to the patient.
Most of the families tolerate or even welcome their presence, though Oscar upset if forced to stay out of the room of a dying patient, meowing at the door.
Oscar’s actions appear to be deliberate. He regularly walks around the nursing home unit for patients with advanced dementia. He sniffs and watches a patient before sitting down beside her. Oscar then purrs while sitting with the patient and usually leaves soon after she died.
How does this Oscar? This is a “sixth sense”, a unique scent he smells or something else? Animal experts have made a number of explanations, but most agree that it likely has to do with a specific scent produced by terminally ill patients. In other words, people who are dying emit the smell of certain chemicals that are not detectable by other humans, but which could cause the smell Oscar. One expert said cats cats can sense illness in its human and animal friends. Jacqueline Pritchard, an animal expert, told BBC News that she was certain that Oscar was feeling the vital organs collapsing.
As for why he keeps vigil next to patients, Oscar may be mimicking the behavior of staff who spend more time with dying patients. An expert on animals suggested it may be that Oscar simply enjoy the comfort of heated blankets placed in patients who are dying.
Stories of animals with remarkable skills are not uncommon. Long ago there are stories of dogs that detect several types of cancer with their scent. A study later proved that dogs could sense evidence of bladder cancer by smelling it in the urine. Some people who suffer from severe epilepsy using specially trained dogs provided by charities.These dogs warn their owners of impending seizures, licking or some other signal. One woman said her dog regularly gives advance notice of 40 minutes, allowing it to go to a safe place not to worry about dangers when she has seizures.
Dogs who experience seizures subtle smells and seek changes in the characteristics of their owners (such as dilated pupils). Their training, which takes at least a year, teaches them to warn their owners. Although we are accustomed to hearing about dogs learning to help the blind or get injured, Oscar’s case is more puzzling. Cats, unlike dogs and even elephants, are not associated with an altruistic, empathic behavior. Scientists believe that dogs can sense disease in others because of their evolutionary origin as wolves, which needed to be able to detect when someone in the pack was hurt or sick.